When the end-to-end process of initiating a contract through to execution is managed manually, it can often be slow and fragmented.
Automating contract workflows benefits everyone involved in the process. It gives teams valuable time back to focus on high-value work, rather than on progressing paperwork, chasing information and waiting on the approval decisions of others.
In this article, we take a look at how to automate contract workflows, minimise bottlenecks and eliminate paper-based processes once and for all.
Contract management software and the Kanban methodology are key to automating workflows and unlocking greater internal efficiencies.
Plan out your workflows and assign ownership
A lot of fairly standardised sets of activities grouped into processes can be needed in CLM practices, such as:
- Request a new contract
- Build / modify a contract template
- Build / modify a contract clause template
- Build a standard contract
- Negotiate a new contract
- Approve a new contract
- Sign a new contract
- Onboard a new third-party
- Implement a new contract
- Review a contract
- Request a contract amendment
- Apply a contract amendment
- Manage contract obligations
- Review contract performance
- Review third-party performance
- Renew a contract
- Terminate a contract.
The extent of contract management processes in place depends largely on the organisation’s level of CLM maturity, something that takes commitment, time, planning and effort to achieve and grow.
It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but the lower the CLM maturity level, the more likely only a basic subset of CLM practices are in place, and that translates to a bare minimum of consistent processes being used.
Every CLM process in use must be carefully documented. Details are needed about the activities, roles and responsibilities, process step hand-offs, timing, methods, calculations, measurements and indicators, and anything else important for understanding exactly how, and how well, each process works.
Once you’ve planned out the workflows you need to optimise, you’ll also need to assign who owns what. Each department should have a clear responsibility to specific parts of the lifecycle.
Critically, every process needs to have an owner, a go-to person to handle questions and complaints about its details and suitability, be involved in any necessary changes, report about its performance, and so on.
Anybody directly or indirectly involved in CLM activities covered by processes is likely to have opinions about what other processes are needed, and how desperately, to undertake other activities that would help deliver the purpose of each contract.
It’s important that this sort of feedback is requested, considered and acted on where possible, to produce improved CLM outcomes across the board as well as to help increase the organisation’s CLM maturity level.
Whether it’s Legal for redlining or Sales for the final approval, ownership and accountability are important to keep contracts progressing. Delays can result in fraught relationships from the outset, internal frustrations and, at worst, lost deals.
A lack of ownership and visibility combined with manual chasing gives way to bottlenecks and slows down time-to-contract."
The Kanban Workflow Engine from Gatekeeper allows you to map out all of your contract processes. It digitises every step involved in your internal processes - from a single notification to an entire review workflow.
Completely customisable, you can visualise each internal process and assign specific cards to different stakeholders. Ownership of cards, phases and workflows is shared between all stakeholders, so accountability can always be driven.
An example Kanban Workflow for a contract review in Gatekeeper
Visualise and optimise internal processes with best-practice templates
The workflows you planned out in the previous step might be processes you go through each time you create a new contract or onboard a new supplier. Rather than spending time on remapping each internal process, best practice contract templates can be used to optimise common workflows.
Internal efficiencies can be unlocked when you don’t have to spend hours planning, customising and tweaking the ways you already work. Using best-practice templates allows you to automate and manage existing internal processes, without extra administrative overheads.
Apply best practice to your internal processes with standardised templates
By using pre-existing templates to visualise and optimise your processes, you will be able to easily spot and remedy any bottlenecks. You can track contracts as they move across their lifecycle, as well as understand who or what the blockers are when trying to progress the contract forward.
With workflow automation at your fingertips, you can minimise the manual administration away from areas such as contract routing and approvals, tracking renewals and chasing suppliers for information.
Route contracts automatically and approve them simultaneously
With automated contract workflows, time no longer needs to be spent searching through inboxes for agreements or sending chasing emails.
Collaboration doesn’t need to be fragmented and the entire routing process can be standardised. By automatically routing contracts to relevant reviewers, collaboration becomes seamless and action can be taken swiftly.
Bottlenecks can build up when a contract’s progress is blocked by certain stakeholders being unable to complete their step of the process. Rather than delaying time-to-contract, automated workflows can be used to set multiple approval groups within any internal workflow phase.
Route and track approvals easily with Gatekeeper
These groups can review and approve contracts in parallel to one another and create greater internal efficiency. Simultaneous approvals improve collaboration across all approvers, reduce time to completion and eliminate bottlenecks.
Automate actions and reminders to manage contracts proactively
Small steps and entire workflows can be made more efficient with Gatekeeper’s Auto-Actions. Simply choose which actions can be automated to save time and to give your business more control. Popular automated actions include notifications and alerts sent to relevant stakeholders when key dates are on the horizon.
Nobody needs to spend time in a spreadsheet tracking the expiry dates for compliance-related documents or renewal dates. But if the relevant stakeholders aren’t aware that these dates are coming, your business could end up spending money for services that are no longer required or even becoming non-compliant if certifications expire.
Use Auto-Actions to automate workflows and send notifications well ahead of time. Not only does this increase internal efficiency but it gives you complete control.
Internal efficiencies can’t be gained from manual and fragmented contract management approaches. By using contract management software that’s built around a Kanban Workflow Engine and methodology, you can automate, standardise and streamline your internal processes.
If you’re ready to see how Gatekeeper can help you to automate your workflows and unlock internal efficiencies, book a demo now.